Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception"Behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves." Luke 10:3
Internal discipline is required for anyone who has a task to perform. I think of the military. Over the years I have known numerous young people who entered military academies. The discipline was demanding and uncompromising. The authorities and their instructors asked them to do things that made no logical sense, yet the obedience demanded was unconditional. As I heard one officer say once, the lives of my men may one day depend upon my ability to respond not with what I feel but with what I know needs to be done no matter what. This same discipline we encounter in any academy or professional school.
Jesus understood this also. He appoints 72 disciples whom He sends out in pairs. They are to prepare the way in every town and place "he intended to visit" (Luke 10:1). Numbers always have some significance in the Bible. We are reminded here that the ancient Israelites believed that there were 72 nations descended from the sons of Noah after the flood (Genesis 10). There would seem to be implied in the number a desire to prepare and to preach to all. And the disciples are sent in pairs. They are to be witnesses, because Jewish law always required at least two witnesses to give testimony to the truth of anything.
Jesus is sending these disciples to witness to the truth. Their mission is important. The mission has grave consequences. The use of the word "harvest" by Jesus underlines this. Harvest was a symbol of final judgment, of a day of reckoning, of a last assessment. "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2). Jesus has need of help. The "laborers" are to assist in the harvest. This work will not be easy. "Behold," Jesus says to them, "I am sending you like lambs among wolves" (Luke 10:3). Therefore, they must be single-minded. They must be disciplined. "Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way" (Luke 10:4).
I remember my seminary days. When I entered the seminary, the discipline was exceptional by today¹s standards. We rose at 5 in the morning. Most of the day was spent in silence. Parents were seen only once a month on a Sunday afternoon for three hours. Study was enforced. Even later, when the routine was relaxed, the discipline was present. Expectations were high. Somehow we knew as seminarians that while the requirements might not make sense, the end was the discipline that was required for those who must live a priestly life in celibacy, obedience and fidelity. Those we knew at military academies or medical schools or professional training programs were also required to live a preparatory discipline. The message was too important. The life was too demanding not to be prepared.
"The kingdom of God is at hand for you," the disciples were to say (Luke 10:9). They were not to waste time with those who would refuse to listen. They were to shake the dust from their feet and move on. The message of the kingdom is urgent. The kingdom of God is "on the verge." And great signs would follow. The sick would be cured. Demons would be subjected. The disciples would tread on serpents and scorpions. Nothing would harm them.
This same necessity exists today. All of us are called to witness and proclaim. However, the Lord calls disciples to enter His service in a disciplined and total way. The Lord still sets aside those who are willing to leave behind everything. "Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps" (Luke 9:23). According to one¹s vocation, the denial takes many forms. For those with a vocation to the priesthood, the call is particular and special. Like child, the priest places himself totally at the disposition of Our Lord.
It is worth noting the prayer that Jesus addresses to His Father in the verses immediately following today¹s Gospel. "I offer you praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because what you have hidden from the learned and the clever you have revealed to the merest children" (Luke 10:21). Like a student in the hands of a master teacher, like a soldier in the field with a disciplined leader, the priest, like a child, places himself in the arms of the Lord and says, "Do with me what you will?"
For you, the faithful of God, the sheep of the flock, you must heed the words of the Gospel today. "Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest" (Luke 10:2). Pray for vocations to the priesthood in this, our diocese.